Yazoo is mourning the loss of one of its most active citizens with the death of Catherine J. Brent.
The longtime educator was constantly involved in civic activities and efforts to improve the community. Brent was named president of the Yazoo County Fair and Civic League in 2016. After serving on the league board as vice-president for over 20 years, Brent stepped up and served in the president's seat when Mr. H.A. Scott fell ill. She was officially named the league president in 2016, and quickly began making improvements within the organization.
Brent was the wife of Aubry Brent Sr., and the mother of the late Ward 4 Alderman Aubry Brent Jr., and Wanda Brent Thomas, of Sugar Grove, Ill.
Brent worked in the education field for 43 years, before retiring in 1993.
She started out her career working as a reading teacher, after graduating high school in the late 1940s. By then she was already living a happy life as a wife and a mother, and was pursuing secondary education at Alcorn in the summertime.
In 1962, Brent earned a Bachelor's Degree with distinction in Elementary Education from Alcorn.
Brent continued her teaching career at many of the small schools in the Yazoo County area during that time.
"I started out as an elementary teacher, and the school was W.A. Campbell," Brent said in a 2018 interview. "At that time, the person who taught the smaller kids taught about four or five grades, and that was certainly a challenge."
Though it was a challenge to be a working wife and mother in those days, Brent decided to continue her education at Jackson State, and by 1973 she had earned a Master's Degree in Elementary Education, and was later awarded a Specialists Degree in Elementary Education in 1977.
By this time, Brent said that she was satisfied with her level of education, and enjoyed the advancements in her career from classroom teacher to elementary principal, and then on to other administrative positions such as instructional supervisor, food service director, assistant superintendent, and even federal programs director.
After so many years in the education field, Brent touched numerous lives and still remains in contact with former students and coworkers.
"I have been out to some of their homes," she said. "Some of them live out of state, and they want me to come for a visit."
When she finally retired in 1993, Brent thought that she was going to spend her free time traveling and visiting her grandchildren.
Those plans changed when she was called upon to serve on the Board of the Yazoo County Fair and Civic League.
Brent had been involved in other clubs and organizations before, such as the Jolly Misses and the Mesdames Club, Inc., and she has been a member of Mount Vernon Baptist Church for over 75 years.
But the Yazoo County Fair and Civic League had a great need for an individual with leadership skills, and Brent was the one named for the job.
The league was originally founded in 1935 by Mr. R.J. Pierce and Mr. T.J. Huddleston Jr., as an organization designed to host separate events for the African-American community during the time of segregation.
"They wanted somewhere to have a fair," said Brent. "At that time, we had a white fair and black fair, so that's how it was started."
For many years, the Fair and Civic League owned a large building on Calhoun Street that stood where a rehabilitation center is now. In this location, local African-Americans could freely meet and set up a small marketplace to sell their farm-grown produce and canned goods, and they also hosted dances and proms, as well as recreation and sporting events.
"They used to play ball there," said Brent. "They played football outside, and they would play basketball on the inside of that building."
The building stood for many years until a storm came and blew the roof away, rendering it unusable.
Since its founding, the Yazoo County Fair and Civic League has been actively involved within Yazoo City.
During her administration of the League, Brent oversaw several repairs and other projects at the L.T. Miller Community Center, including the repair of two bathrooms, repairs made to the north end of the center where the offices are housed, the roof has been repaired, special greenery has been added throughout the building, special nooks have been set up in various corners, and several rooms in the building are being rented out for office space. The league also hired maintenance employees to help complete all work in a timely manner.
Funeral services were held Aug. 7 at Glenwood Cemetery.